Clean Power Coalition-Southeast Wisconsin
Press Release

Clean Power Coalition Renews Call for Oak Creek Coal Plant Retirement as Testimony Filed

According to the testimony, the South Oak Creek coal plant is costing customers approximately $75 million each year.

By - Aug 28th, 2019 05:13 pm

Oak Creek, WI — Following testimony filed in WEC Energy Groups’s rate cases for Wisconsin Public Service (WPS) and WEPCO (We Energies) at the Public Service Commission, the Clean Power Coalition of Southeast Wisconsin is renewing its call for We Energies to retire its coal plant in Oak Creek and replace it with cleaner, cheaper energy.

The testimony filed today by Sierra Club, a member of the Coalition, concluded that all of WEC’s coal resources are uneconomic compared to market prices and renewable resources, and that ratepayers are paying more than they need to for the electricity and capacity these plants are providing. According to the testimony, the South Oak Creek coal plant is costing customers approximately $75 million each year. The community and members of the Coalition have been raising concerns for years about the health and environmental impacts of the coal plant on residents throughout southeast Wisconsin.

In response, Tom Rutkowski, member of the Clean Power Coalition of Southeast Wisconsin and Executive Committee Chair for the Sierra Club’s Southeast  Gateway Group representing the counties of Kenosha, Racine and eastern Walthworth, released the following statement:

“Our community has been suffering the dire impacts of pollution from coal. Coal dust has blanketed our neighborhoods and We Energies wants to increase the amount of toxic mercury it’s allowed to dump into Lake Michigan, which some municipalities use for drinking water. We’ve spoken out about the threat of coal to our health, and We Energies has left us with nothing but questions. When will We Energies take meaningful action to protect our community? When will the utility commit to a transition from harmful coal to clean energy? Now this testimony shows, that on top of everything, the South Oak Creek coal plant is costing customers millions every year. Our community deserves better.

“The Clean Power Coalition urges We Energies’ executives to step up and fulfill their broader responsibilities to the residents and the environment of Southeast Wisconsin by accelerating their retirement of harmful, and expensive, coal-fired power plants and committing to a transition to clean energy. Last week almost two hundred chief executives of America’s largest corporations declared that they will now consider not only the interest of shareholders but will accept broader obligations to society in the way that they do business. The Business Roundtable stated that they will ‘respect the people in our communities and protect the environment by embracing sustainable business practices across our businesses.’ It is a sentiment that is commendable and shows a demonstration of corporate values that the Coalition hopes We Energies can embrace before it’s too late.”

We Energies has had several major controversies related to their coal plants and clean energy policies recently. Families who live near We Energies’ coal-fired Oak Creek power plant have been complaining to the company for years about negative health effects they are suffering as a result of exposure to coal dust emitted from the plant and the trains that deliver the coal. Coal contains toxic metals including lead, mercury, and arsenic. The health effects of inhalable particulate matter such as coal dust include aggravation of asthma, respiratory symptoms, an increase in hospital emissions, and increased mortality from cardiovascular and respiratory diseases and lung cancer.

In December, We Energies requested a mercury variance that would allow them to discharge up to three times the state standard amount of mercury in their water discharge into Lake Michigan. Mercury is a potent neurotoxin that bioaccumulates in fish and can produce neurological damage and other harmful health effects in humans when consumed. In February, the Wisconsin DNR held a hearing to gather public comments on this issue. Over 150 people attended the hearing and expressed opposition against several provisions of the draft permit, including the mercury variance.

The Clean Power Coalition-Southeast Wisconsin will educate the public about the dangers of burning coal on the health of those who live and work in the vicinity of We Energies’ South Oak Creek and Elm Road Power Plants. How we choose to generate electricity has consequences that reach far beyond the return on shareholder investment, affecting everything from public health to a stable climate. When air, water, and soil are polluted, health and life are put at risk. The Clean Power Coalition will promote public debate about the appropriate source of energy for Southeastern Wisconsin. At the same time, the coalition urges We Energies to: 1.) immediately contain the coal dust and other health hazards emanating from the Oak Creek plants, 2.) phase out its use of coal, and 3.) promote rather than obstruct the adoption of renewable energy throughout its service territory.

Clean Power Coalition convening member organizations: Eco Justice Center / Greening Greater Racine / Moms Clean Air Force / NAACP State of Wisconsin Environmental Committee / Our Wisconsin Revolution / Racine Dominicans / Racine Green Party / Sierra Club, Beyond Coal Campaign / Sierra Club, John Muir Chapter / Sierra Club, Southeast Gateway Group / UW Whitewater Students Allied for a Green Earth (SAGE) / Wisconsin Interfaith Power and Light / 350 Milwaukee. Supporting member organizations: Black Leaders Organizing Communities (BLOC) / Citizens Acting for Rail Safety / Gaia Coalition / Kenosha Green Congregations / NextGen America / Racine Coalition for Peace and Justice / Racine Interfaith Coalition / Interfaith Earth Network / School Sisters of Notre Dame / Sierra Club – Great Waters Group / Sierra Club – Fox Valley Group / Water Protectors of Milwaukee / Wisconsin Green Muslims / Wisconsin Conservation Voters.

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